California Recent Change to Marijuana Law

Under the ballot measure designated as Proposition 64 that was passed by 57% of the voters in the November 8, 2016 election that became effective November 9th:

1) those convicted of a felony as a result of possession, transportation &/or cultivation of marijuana can have it reduced to a misdemeanor;

2) the County Public Defender in San Diego has offered to file the Petition for free even if the crime occurred years ago, and even if the defendant was previously represented by private counsel;

3) if the San Diego District Attorney decides there is a basis to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor, the defendant may not even have to appear in Court;

4) the current process in San Diego allows the Superior Court to re-sentence a defendant from a felony to a misdemeanor, or dismiss the charges [it would seem beneficial to have private counsel if one hopes to obtain a full dismissal of a prior felony conviction];

5) the law also now permits anyone over age 21 to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, or grow at any one time up to six marijuana plants at their residence.

6) the maximum penalty is now up to six months in the County Jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for those who grow, transport or sell marijuana, which are now misdemeanors.

7) there are certain exceptions causing the case to be charged as a felony, such as:

  • the defendant has prior convictions for the sale of drugs;
  • the defendant is charged with transporting marijuana into the United States &/or across state borders. For example, one cannot obtain marijuana in a state in which recreational use is legal and bring it into California;
  • the defendant has a prior conviction of certain felonies that are deemed “strikes;”
  • the defendant is a Registered Sex Offender [RSO].

8) in addition, there are miscellaneous restrictions in connection with marijuana, such as:

  • there are Federal laws that apply to the use, possession, sale, transportation and/or cultivation of marijuana;
  • driving while impaired by the use [under the influence] of marijuana is a crime in California;
  • smoking marijuana (a joint) (pot) in public is still illegal;
  • a store, shop, or retail establishment that sells recreational marijuana must check ID’s to be certain they are not selling marijuana to a minor; and such a business cannot be within 600 feet of a school, daycare or youth center;
  • unless the law is amended, a medical marijuana dispensary and/or an entity that cultivates marijuana cannot legally sell to an adult recreational user [includes social, personal or nutritional uses] until January, 2018;
  • advertising that is aimed to minors is prohibited;
  • a city or municipality has the power to issue an ordinance to ban the sale of marijuana; and if they permit such a commercial entity to do business, they have the power to regulate those entities under zoning laws.
  • an employer can lawfully require all prospective employees to pass a drug test as a condition of employment for certain positions as long as no individual or group is unlawfully selected, such as discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion, sexual preference, etc.
  • an employer can lawfully refuse to hire an employee who has tested positive for marijuana, even though it was legally prescribed for a medicinal purpose

9) nonetheless, there are still advantages to have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, including but not limited to allowing an individual to maintain &/or obtain current and future: employment, security clearance, insurance, rent or lease property, and, in specified instances to possess a firearm, etc.

On the other hand, it is still likely if one has a professional or occupational license in California, or seeks to obtain such a license,  the state licensing Board, Bureau, or Department will require one to report a crime, whether a felony or misdemeanor; and, they will investigate and likely file an Accusation even if a misdemeanor is expunged. At Spital and Associates, we aggressively seek to present a comprehensive and cogent treatise with a compelling defense and offense and utilize forensic experts (adding the technical science) to marginalize any such investigation or Accusation.

Any discussion of marijuana of necessity has to include what opponents consider to be the dangers of such use. The short term effects include but are not limited to causing changes in a person’s mood, but  it can also impair body movement; as well as difficulty in attention and/or memory (learning) and/or problem solving (thinking). It has also been reported that marijuana raises one’s heart rate, which can increase the risk of a heart attack, particularly with older individuals and/or those with congenital or later developed or contracted heart problems.

The long term effects can adversely impact the previously mentioned mental abilities, and possibly cause permanent loss of certain brain functions. In some individuals,  the long term use of marijuana can cause temporary symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations, as well as anxiety and depression that has been linked to mental illness. Not only can there be a loss of physical and/or mental health, but it has also been described as a “gateway drug” because it can lead to the use of other drugs and narcotics (some of which are highly addictive and deadly).  In addition, the smoke can harm a person’s lungs and, therefore, cause lung cancer. The risk to the development of a child during and after pregnancy is still unknown. When one seeks to stop using marijuana, there may be withdrawal symptoms.

You are encouraged to consult with a physician in terms of  medical and psychological issues; and, it is recommended that you obtain the advice of an experienced lawyer in regards to each and all of the above items to determine whether and to what extent any apply to you, a loved one, and/or a friend or associate. If you desire a Free Attorney Consultation, call 619.583.0350 and ask for Sam Spital, Managing Lawyer or send an email

Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ From Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

On August 16, 2016, a three- judge panel of the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals (this is the federal appellate court that covers California) ruled against the Federal Government, holding the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot prosecute marijuana cases when a STATE permits medical marijuana &/or a business or individual is in compliance with state law.

In 2014, Congress passed a bill known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that DOJ cannot use any of its funding in any given fiscal year to interfere with medical marijuana laws in the states. In other words, the Federal Government is barred from preventing states from how they regulate the use or sale of marijuana.

This is a victory for proponents of medical marijuana laws, but there are two apparent limitations:

  • The cases will likely turn on whether there is strict compliance with the relevant conditions of state law; and
  • The Congressional appropriation restriction noted above expires 9/30/16 and, unless Congress passes a new bill to extend that prohibition, it will soon expire.

This is a unique situation inasmuch as the Federal Government has not updated its laws for40-50 years while approximately 41 states authorize at least one form of medical marijuana use. Some commentators argue the Federal Government is out of step with [what seems] a growing trend in a majority of states

We can expect to see new legislation by Congress regarding this subject very soon.

 

2016 New California Laws

There are about 800 new California laws that went into effect on January 1, 2016. Here are a few noted by the following topics:

Driving Under the Influence – drivers convicted of a DUI (whether alcohol or drugs) in four California counties [Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento & Turlare], under an existing program that will remain in effect until July 1, 2017 will be required to install an ignition-interlock device (IID) on their cars. The IID registers alcohol on the driver’s breath, and is designed to prevent the vehicle from starting based on a pre-determined level of blood alcohol.

Earbuds – earphones, headsets or earbuds in both ears cannot be used while driving a vehicle or bicycle

Electronic Surveillance – the police, sheriff and law enforcement must first obtain a search warrant before accessing your e-mail, text, social media, data and other electronic information, unless it is determined to be an emergency situation.

Gun ban – those who have a CCW permit (individual who may legally carry a concealed weapon) will not be allowed to bring their guns on school and/or college campuses without advance permission from the school or campus authority.

Gun-violence restraining order – individuals who fear a family member could hurt their self or others can apply to the court for a gun-violence restraining order to limit the person’s access to firearms for up to one year

Medical marijuana rules – a statewide agency will now license and regulate all aspects of the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution and sale of medical marijuana.

Motor-voter registration – adults who apply for or renew a California driver’s license will automatically be registered to vote, although one can opt out if you do not want to be registered.

School Children – must be vaccinated to go to public school

Toy guns – are outlawed (can’t be displayed) in public unless brightly colored such as red, pink or yellow

Work Pay – equal pay is required for men & women. It is not less burdensome for a female employee to challenge her employer if there appears to be a disparity in the pay women receive in contrast to men performing similar work. Employers are also barred from prohibiting workers from talking about their &/or their co-workers’ pay in order to determine wage fairness. The minimum wage in California is now $10/hr. However, fewer minimum wage earners now work a full 40 hour work week as a result of the expanded wage, health, and benefit laws involved in operating a business.

This is a summary only and not intended to constitute legal advice. For the official webpage and guide of the Bills the California Legislature enacted in 2015, click: Bills Enacted in 2015

Unintended Consequences of Criminal Offenders Being Transferred from State Prison to County Jail

The growing population of over 150,000 inmates in state prisons in California has exceeded the level the U.S. Supreme Court opined in 2011 is permissible. There has been litigation in Federal Court to obtain a more speedy reduction of the state prison population, and a new law has been enacted as a result of the Governor and Legislature in California establishing the state’s prison realignment; this is the name given to transferring inmates to county jails to reduce the state prison population to about 110,000. A Federal three-judge court previously set June, 2013 as the deadline for California to reduce by over 37% its state prison population beyond each prison’s building capacity. The date was recently extended to February, 2016.  This narrative has been based upon the perceived challenge of the State of California to provide adequate health care to inmates.

The Federal Court allowed this additional period of time subject to transferring state prisoners to private correctional centers and county jails in California, but not any longer to out of state facilities. This was also based upon, among other reasons, the representation of Governor Brown that shorter sentences would be imposed on non-violent criminals; issuing additional good behavior credits to prisoners so they could be eligible for an earlier release; speeding up and expanding early parole for those over 65 years of age with at least 25 years in prison; along with those who are medically incapacitated, as well as expanding the rehabilitation programs provided to inmates.

The problem is not simply the transfer of inmates to County Jails, but now the local detention facilities statewide are overcrowded. Moreover, it has been alleged there is an even greater conundrum in that far more sophisticated criminals are now incarcerated in County Jails.  For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that oversees the jails in this County has reported there has been an increased number of drugs being smuggled into the jails; this drug trade that previously was typical of state prisons has now become a serious problem in county jails.  It has been reported there were 221 of these drug and alcohol cases in the San Diego County Jails in 2012, which constitutes over a 50% increase from that in 2011. There was a total of 279 of such cases in 2013, and about 335 of these particular cases between January and September, 2014.

To better address one of  these problems, San Diego has installed body scanners at a cost of $150, 000 each unit and $10,000 each year to provide service and maintenance. This month, the County Board of Supervisors also approved spending more than three-quarters of a million dollars to obtain four additional scanners and for a five year maintenance agreement. Besides visitors hiding contraband, some of those picked up for minor probation and parole violations have been smuggling drugs into the jails, as they may only be incarcerated for up to 10 days.

But what is the best solution? Clearly, we need to implement greater rehabilitation and educational programs. For the most part, we are spending the money to incarcerate people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, have a mental illness and/or do not have sufficient education and labor skills, when rehabilitation will have a far greater impact on this growing societal problem. Many advocates believe it can help to let local and state legislators know our political views, and of course, to become more involved in community programs.

 

 

What Are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)?

For the most part, many of us have not read or heard about ACE’s, the acronym for adverse childhood experiences. Whereas highly negative experiences as a child often create indelible marks in his/her brain impacting child development, they do not have to be irreversible. For more information of significant interest, see the following:  http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

Negative childhood experiences inevitably can cause anxiety, toxic stress, fear, shame, disappointment, anger,  hopelessness, helplessness, despair and depression. They can arise from one or more specific incidents of neglect; physical, sexual, verbal and/or emotional abuse; and  family dysfunction in general.  When the feelings that arise from such experiences become intolerable, they can move from being an acute and temporary problem to a chronic and continuing episode. For far too many, they not only impact a child’s development but frame their adult life. They are often linked to and the causal factor behind substance abuse; mental illness; criminal behavior; separation and divorce; neuro-psychiatric and neuro-psychological problems, major medical health conditions as well as auto-immune diseases; work absences and employment problems. However,  learning more about this scourge and most importantly obtaining appropriate and if necessary ongoing care and treatment can alter the fabric of life.

Far too many examples are evident in the news every day, yet there are clues that either were ignored &/or rationalized by parents, siblings, relatives, peers, friends and associates. Become more aware of those you love and with whom you associate so that their personal feelings are addressed, if only to be the one who listens and hears the challenges and struggles they may experience. Hopefully, encouragement will suffice; however, recommending one obtain counseling and professional guidance may ultimately be the best remedy and tool for accommodating negative feelings and ultimately reduce  the ACE score.  Also, see http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2014/08/07/q-pediatrician-screens-parents-kids-trauma-ace-score-9/

 

Should law Enforcement Be Permitted to Stop and Search on the Basis of an Anonymous Tip of Reckless Driving?

In the U.S. Supreme Court case of PRADO NAVARETTE et al. v. CALIFORNIA, 12-9490 (April 22, 2014), the Court held the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not violated and, therefore, the traffic stop by a CHP law enforcement in which the officer searched the bed of a pickup truck and found about thirty pounds of marijuana was lawful since he had a reasonable suspicion of criminality, smelling marijuana and having a belief the driver was intoxicated.as a result of an anonymous tip given by a 911 caller.

The Dissenting opinion in this case captured the essence of the issue by writing a compelling summary stating all of us are at risk of losing our freedom of movement by an anonymous telephone tip such as this one regarding a reckless driver, whether true or false. Further, other opponents of these types of searches argue law enforcement should not be able to stop and search the public on an en masse basis. Criminal and constitutional lawyers maintain this Supreme Court opinion constitutes a further loss of our freedom to be secure from government intrusion.

What Evidence is Required to Establish Aiding and Abetting a Crime?

On November 12, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Rosemond v. United States, #12-895, on Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, heard oral arguments.

The underlying case involved the issue of whether the jury instructions were adequate and the offense of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense can be established by the mere fact an individual knew (he had foreknowledge) the principal offender had a firearm or there must be proof that the individual acted with actual intent to encourage &/or enable the use of the weapon by the accomplice and, therefore, there was actual intent to further the crime in question. The various U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have been divided on interpreting the law, although in California the Ninth Circuit requires purposeful intent.

This is a fundamental issue that has been raised in countless situations; for example, the driver of a vehicle (wheelman) &/or a passenger in a car is aware an accomplice is carrying a weapon during a bank robbery. Criminal defense lawyers have maintained that knowledge is not intent, and this individual needs to intend the gun be used by the accomplice. The government has argued in these cases that if one participates in a crime knowing his accomplice has a gun then that constitutes intent to facilitate; they maintain it is irrelevant if the person wants his accomplice to use it or not.  

Besides the disparity in standards of proof in the various circuit courts, the significance in the case at hand goes to the huge sentence enhancement imposed upon the defendant, namely 14 years instead of 5 years as a result of the disparity in the particular and minority tenth circuit.

The official transcript of the oral argument in the Rosemond case can be viewed at

http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/12-895_8m59.pdf

Man Arrested & Government Seize Nearly $900,000 in Marijuana

A United States citizen was arrested for drug trafficking near the San Diego-Mexico border over the weekend. The 59-year-old allegedly attempted to smuggle almost $900,000 worth of marijuana into the U.S.  The arrest took place after authorities noticed a person hiding in a bush several yards away from the international line.

Officers discovered the suspect transferring bundles from a Dodge Ram into a motor home and then proceeded to question him. They determined the man was engaging in a smuggling operation. Agents found 40 packages of cannabis, with an estimated street value of $857,000.

 

Police arrest four drug suspects following high-speed chase

 

A high-speed chase in San Diego ended with the arrest of four individuals who are now facing drug charges.

 

According to the report, authorities had information that led them to believe the vehicle was involved in narcotics trafficking or use.

However, the driver refused to pull over when asked and instead led police on a pursuit during rush hour. With the help of a police helicopter, the suspects were captured shortly after leading an officer down an embankment.

An investigation led to the discovery of meth, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm inside the abandoned vehicle. In addition to narcotics charges, the suspects also face felony evading and failure to yield.

Methamphetamine is a growing problem throughout San Diego

Methamphetamine drug use and distribution are some of the most prevent drug crimes in San Diego. According to this news report, methamphetamine killed an estimated 174 people in this Southern California city in the year 2012.“It’s prevalent and I don’t know if people know how much it is,” said the founder of a rehab facility for teen and adult addicts.
In the 90s, San Diego became known as the meth capital of the world because of an increase in labs that emerged throughout the city. Methamphetamine drug use and problems in San Diego did not end there. Today, meth is considered to be the number 1 reason why people seek rehabilitation.